Friday the 13th in the year 2020 is a scary thought for those who believe in superstitions and legends but not for the non-believers. Even so, everyone must be wondering what the story behind this fear of Friday the 13th is!
Almost twenty million people in the US and many others worldwide suffering from “friggatriskaidekaphobia,“ or “paraskevidekatriaphobia,” must be worried as hell since they believe in Friday the 13th and the bad luck that it brings.
Though some of the fear can be blamed on the Friday the 13th movie franchise, the day’s bad reputation began long before the film’s hockey-masked villain, Jason Voorhees, made an appearance.
The superstition starts with the fear of the number 13, or “triskaidekaphobia.” Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware, believes that the apprehension stems from 13’s position after 12, which numerologists regard as a “complete” number. After all, there are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, and so on. Hence, the number that follows is widely considered incomplete, and, therefore, “unlucky.”
Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias, and Fun, thinks 13 has been feared since ancient times when the Vikings lived in Scandinavia. A popular local legend asserts that twelve gods were enjoying a quiet dinner in their mythological heaven, Valhalla, when Loki crashed the party. The trickster Norse god purportedly provoked Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to kill Balder, the god of joy and gladness. To this day, many people avoid having 13 guests at a party. In France, some businesses even go as far as “renting” a 14th dinner guest, or “quatorzieme.”
Friday’s bad reputation is believed to be rooted in religion as well. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Though it was not on the 13th, the execution occurred after the Last Supper, which was attended by 13 men, including Judas Iscariot, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus. Many biblical scholars maintain that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. The one unfortunate biblical event that is thought to have happened on Friday the 13th was Adam and Eve’s firstborn son Cain’s murder of his younger brother, Abel. Stuart Vyse, a psychology professor at Connecticut College, says, “The combination of those factors produced a “sort of double whammy of 13 falling on an already nervous day.”
People who are afraid of the day experience symptoms that range from mild anxiety, to a nagging fear of something terrible happening, to complete panic attacks. For those working in injury-prone professions like construction and shipbuilding, the nervousness often results in a self-fulfilling prophecy, making them fear the day even more.
Surprisingly, Friday the 13th also impacts the US economy. Businesses lose about $900 million on the dreaded date as the superstitious avoid going to work, traveling, or making big purchases. As it turns out, their fears are unfounded. A 2008 study by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics revealed that fewer traffic accidents occur on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. The number of fires and thefts reported were also much lower.